Friday, June 1, 2012

Of American Dreams and Indian Realities

I met Meghna Pant last month when she had come to Pune to promote her debut novel, "One & A Half Wife". This interview was filed for a women's supplement.

She juggles numbers and words with equal ease. Her day begins as the deputy editor of a business magazine in Dubai, and at night she escapes into the world of literature. Meghna Pant, first-time novelist, admits that it’s crazy working from day into the night, but wouldn’t like to change her schedule one bit. “My day job and the stories that I write, when I get back home, are both very dear to me. I can’t choose between them,” Meghna, who was in the city to promote her book One & A Half Wife, said.
Talking about her “baby,” the 31-year-old business journalist said, “The idea for the novel germinated when I returned to India from the US where I was working with the Bloomberg. India had changed in the two years that I was away — right from the expensive onions to the mushrooming malls on every street. It took a while relating to this new India. This feeling of disconnect is one of the main subplots of the novel.”
The book, said Meghna, mirrors a lot of social realities and changing norms. “It begins with every Indian’s dream — to go abroad, specifically the US. It’s an immigrant story, but it doesn’t focus so much on the first and second generation immigrants. There are many who have gone to study and then look for a job. This novel delves into that space and the fact that dreams go sour.”
It’s the story of Amara Malhotra, who migrates to the US when she’s almost 15 and is brought up by her parents as the quintessential Indian girl in an American city. “It’s a clash of ideas, images and the old world vs new world,” Meghna shared. That gets us talking about values or institutions from the old world. What about marriage? Is the idea still strong in today’s times? “It is important for us. In the novel, Amara’s marriage fails, but that doesn’t embitter her towards the idea of getting married again,” Meghna said.
One wonders if Meghna, who’s portrayed Amara as docile and eager to please and then as a spirited woman entrepreneur, knows the world of her character first hand. “I have known Amara’s world in the US — how close-knit the Indian-American community is — and the glamour associated with living there. I have also stayed in India pre and post globalisation.”
What next?” we asked her. “My next novel is going to be a dark comedy. And my protagonist this time will be an old man. I might also bring out a compilation of my short stories which have appeared in publications in the US and UK,” smiled Meghna.
Isn’t she considering a book on the booming economy going bust? “I treasure my nightly escape to the world of literature... but I end with ‘Never say Never’,” she signed off.

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